ORANGE PARK - When Kathy Schafer talks about the dangers of drinking and driving, she says she feels her 17-year-old son David beside her. One of the last things she told him before he went out was to make good choices.
On Jan. 1, 2015, Jessica Perry, 17, and Levi Town, a 31-year-old father of five, were also killed in the Baker County accident. Six of Town’s family were hospitalized.
“The accident killed a young girl and father,” Schafer said. “Then I [tell audiences], ‘David was the drunk driver.’ I leave them with a thought that everybody’s life has two dates. A date of birth and a date of death. It’s that little dash in between that counts. Make the most of it.”
Schafer, who lives in Argyle, said she was originally afraid to call Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the support and services they offered.
“I was looking for places to speak to people about it,” Schafer said. “It took me a long time to get my courage up to call them.”
MADD program specialist Judy Cotton, who specializes in outreach, and Schafer repeat the same quick-fire sayings when they discuss one the country’s prevalent epidemics: “Start drinking, you stop thinking”; “We [MADD] want to go out of business”; and “Only about 1 percent of people [drunk driving] get caught.” According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes per year.
MADD will host Northeast Florida Walk Like MADD 2018 at the Orange Park Town Hall Saturday morning. The event is from 9:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m., on Nov. 3, with registration beginning at 8:00 a.m. Registration is available online at www.walklikemadd.org under upcoming walks.
Cotton said it’s a misconception that MADD aims to end drinking. She said curbing underage drinking and increasing awareness of moral, legal and life-long consequences of drunk drivers getting behind the wheel are the organization’s main goals.
“We don’t care if people drink. It’s such a misconception that we don’t want people to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or have a beer. That’s not us,” Cotton said. “We ask they do it wisely and responsibly — we just don’t want them to drink and drive. I think everybody should want that.”
MADD may be unpopular to support because people don’t know its array of services or mission, Schafer added. The fashionable advertising of alcohol — think young people dancing on a beach — pose a threat to minors, she said.
“People don’t like talking about it because alcohol is a legal drug. MADD isn’t against drinking
It’s a message that’s been out there for a long time” Schafer said. “People are ignoring it and still dying from it.”
Schafer said she would like to see stricter advertising standards or potential class action lawsuits against the industry.
“It’s sending the wrong message and we have to get the opposite message out there too, like if you drink and drive this is going to happen. Show the twisted car,” Cotton said. “That’s what I feel.”
Cotton called drunk driving one of the most commonly committed crimes in the United States.
“On average people do it 80 times before they get caught,” Cotton said. “For some people, getting caught is the luck of the draw.”
Letting kids drink is not a rite of passage, Cotton said. Adults who provide alcohol are a major part of problem. She said MADD would rather deal with prevention rather than intervention.
“Until everybody stops drinking and driving, we’ll be here,” Cotton said.